We all know internet shutdowns violate human rights and destroy people’s lives and livelihoods. For women around the world, they also take away crucial opportunities and exacerbate the inequality and injustice they already suffer. As we mark International Women’s Day today, it’s clear activists are making strides in bridging gender inequalities and securing women’s voting rights, freedom of movement, reproductive rights, and freedom from gender-based violence and workplace discrimination. But we need far more progress to attain a world where people are truly equal. The use of information and communications technology can help bridge these gaps, or deepen them. We witness this every time a government shuts down the internet.
Did you know?
- Men who are online are more likely to have what the Web Foundation calls “meaningful connectivity” than women who are online
- In Uganda, where many women operate small online businesses, a single internet shutdown can result in financial losses of up to one million Ugandan shillings (equivalent of U.S. $280) depending on its scale and scope
- Women in Manipur, India don’t just lose income during internet shutdowns — the shutdowns have a severe impact on all aspects of their lives, affecting mental health, disrupting work-life balance, and limiting their ability to advocate on salient issues such as child trafficking and domestic violence
- In many countries, internet shutdowns deny women access to a primary source of essential information related to their reproductive health because these topics are taboo, including information about menstruation, breastfeeding and childcare, pregnancy, and abortion
- Internet shutdowns rob women of career opportunities and interfere with their efforts to empower young girls and other women to take up challenging roles
What women around the world say about internet shutdowns
Governments that impose deliberate network disruptions are choosing to further widen the gender digital divide, deepen existing inequality, and hobble women’s economic development. In this slideshow, we share women’s stories from Cameroon to Uganda to Tanzania and beyond, revealing the ways their own governments are disrupting their lives and robbing them of opportunities that would otherwise strengthen their communities.
Help fight internet shutdowns: make your voice heard
The internet empowers women in diverse ways and we have a shared responsibility to protect it. Here are some ways you can help:
- Share your own internet shutdown story. Documenting the impact of shutdowns can help human rights advocates push back against them, including in international forums. You can submit your story in English, Français, العَرَبِيَّة, Español, Português, አማርኛ, ቲግሪንያ, Català, اردو, Swahili, 中文, русский
- Speak out against internet shutdowns if you think your government will cut access or block services. This is more common during war and conflict, protests, and elections. Check out our advocacy toolkit for elections, in Arabic, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili.
- Join the #KeepItOn coalition. Your organization would join 240 NGOs from 105 countries around the world.
Thank you for all you do. Together, we can #BreakTheBias and #KeepItOn.